After the year we’ve had, we need the colour, inclusiveness, difference, vibrancy and fun of Karangahape Road more than ever. And Auckland’s most exciting street has been getting ready for us - it’s sporting a huge upgrade and a brand-new advocate.
Karangahape Road Business Association CEO Jamey Holloway has been in the job since September 2021 and he’s ecstatic about the street's bright future.
An update for an icon
Karangahape Road is a New Zealand icon and Holloway reckons it’s known all over the country. “I knew about Karangahape Road long before I ever set foot in Auckland. It's a sort of a destination for musicians and artists and anyone wanting to express themselves and be themselves in New Zealand.”
Holloway adds that having a space like this is so important for us all considering everything that’s going on in the world right now. Recognising the street’s importance, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have just finished the street’s biggest ever upgrade.
“We've got a two-way dedicated cycle lane, we've got wider footpaths and a lot of extra space for street art and activity,” says Holloway.
“The traffic's been slowed down a bit, which makes it a more pedestrian-friendly environment.”
Since the upgrade, lockdowns aside, the sidewalk has been bustling with diners and revellers at local favourites like Madame George, Candela and Peach Pit. When the sun’s shining, this is the ultimate spot for a cold drink, a bite to eat and some world-class people-watching.
Karangahape Road’s history is a rich and colourful tapestry. In pre-European times, it was a prominent thoroughfare for Māori along the ridgeline, connecting the two harbours.
“The upgrade is full of features that recall that history and keep it alive for the present day,” says Holloway.
Those features include bus stops featuring multi-coloured glass reminiscent of pāua shells, tukutuku patterns on the overbridge, and engraved disks on the pavement (symbolising the shells that reflected moonlight, enabling Māori to see the path at night).
The LGBTQI+ community is another essential part of Karangahape Road’s identity, celebrated by two rainbow crossings and many other new additions. “To see that heritage celebrated and brought to the forefront in the upgrade is a great thing. I think you see that celebrated in the pink path, the rainbow crossings, and woven into features all the way through.”
Karangahape Road is so many things for Auckland. It’s a playground, packed with our best restaurants and bars, a cultural hub brimming with fresh ideas, and a meeting place where we can all be ourselves. It’s also about to benefit from New Zealand’s biggest ever infrastructure project - the City Rail Link.
“I think when we have the station opening in 2025, it's going to connect it up to another level,” enthuses Holloway. The public will enter and exit the area via two station entrances – one on Mercury Lane and the other on Beresford Square.
While change is a good thing, Holloway says his focus is to improve the street while retaining the colourful character that’s made it such an icon.
“I think the challenge for us all is going to be to keep it special and to keep it weird. Karangahape Road is the best of New Zealand. I think, with what we've already done and with what we've got coming, the future’s incredibly bright.”